Spartans' Duckett heads top RBs in Draft

T.J. Duckett, Michigan State (6-1, 254 lbs., 4.37) – Duckett is a total package back. He has the size and power to run between the tackles. The All-Big Ten back also has the speed to stretch defenses on the corner and the feet to cut it back inside. Duckett has good hands and has had a few plays where he was split out and caught pass down field - just ask Michigan fans.

His blocking is still suspect, but to be honest, not many feature backs move into the pros as polished blockers. The only knock on him seems to be that big backs often get banged up and slow down earlier in their career than others. He is Michigan State's fifth all-time leading rusher with 3,379 career yards and closed his career in strong fashion. In fact, he averaged 139.0 yards over his final seven games last season.

He reminds some people of Jerome Bettis (Pittsburgh), while others say Ron Dayne (NY Giants). The biggest difference with making those kinds of comparisons is that Duckett can actually stay in on third down and contribute as a receiver. His extraordinary Pro Day, which featured a 4.37 40-time, 25 reps of 225 pounds, 3.95 short shuttle and 37" vertical place him at the top of the list in terms of physical tools.

Duckett, who played linebacker as a freshman, has gone from a short-yardage player to every-down performer. The potential knock against him is that he runs a bit high at times and needs to do a better job of keeping his pad level down, while showing more balance after initial contact. However, Cleveland might find it hard to pass him up at pick No.16, although Jacksonville could make a move on him at No. 9 if they decide to deal injury-prone RB Fred Taylor. Minnesota's No.7 pick could be the place to deal up for any team that falls in love with Duckett's potential.

William Green (Boston College) – Green had a tremendous junior campaign for the Eagles, but it was plagued by an in-season suspension for violating team rules. He combines size, speed and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In recent weeks his actual 40-time has brought about discussions on whether he can be a "game-breaker" in the NFL. He has averaged 4.58 in his workouts, but also did 27 reps of 225 pounds. His open field acceleration cannot be ignored as very few defenders ever tackled him from behind.

Green has received very good character evaluations from those teams that have spent increased time scouting him, which includes Dallas and Jacksonville. The Cowboys have begun to take an increased look at Green - and may actually try to trade down and select him later in the first round.

Lamar Gordon (North Dakota State) – Gordon possesses the blend of size and breakaway speed that excites both scouts and coaches. He averaged 4.40 at his recent Pro Day at 6-foot-0, 212 pounds.

His impressive Senior Bowl week, which included showing better than advertised hands and blocking skills really helped increase his overall stock. He knows how to use his quickness to turn the corner and has the size to gain yards between the tackles. With both Duckett and Green likely to go in the Top-20 picks it should not be surprising when Gordon gets selected in the early portion of round two.

Deshaun Foster (UCLA) - Foster became the poster child for poor decisions this season after starting off his senior year with several Heisman-like performances. He was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after accepting benefits from an agent, which cost him and his team any chance at a bowl game. On the field Foster showed improved toughness and durability, but continued to put the ball on the ground - fumblitis is clearly part of his college resume.

Foster has run as fast as 4.52 in the 40 at 219 pounds, but his game speed seems faster. He shows good hands out of the backfield, but tends to run a bit upright and is open to big hits at the line of scrimmage. While he does not possess "true" first-round ability it would not be surprising to see him go in the Top-40 picks, since several teams are in need of a No.1 back.

Clinton Portis (Miami) – Portis is a very quick and elusive runner with better strength and power than most people give him credit for. The junior back decided to take his game to the next level after helping the Hurricanes capture this year's National Championship. He currently weighs 195 pounds and has worked hard in the off-season at adding more bulk to his 5-foot-11 frame. Portis ran as fast as 4.32 at his recent Pro Day, but scouts throughout the league are still split between whether they think he has feature back potential or change-of-pace skills. Look for Portis to come off the board between the middle of round two and early portion of round three.

Maurice Morris (Oregon) – Morris has gained a lot of momentum thanks to several impressive workouts. He ran 4.45 at 208 pounds during his Pro Day and exhibited fine hands out of the backfield. As a junior he ran over-and-past Pac-10 defenders, but was injured this season and split time with another back. Morris' skills seem to be getting overlooked with all the talk of Duckett and Green - he will likely be selected around the third round - but possesses the ability to become 1,000-yard rusher in the league.

Adrian Peterson (Georgia Southern) – Peterson was one of the most prolific running backs in the history of Division I-AA football, but will never run 40-times that will impress scouts. He averaged 4.65 during his Pro Day, but this kid plays with great vision, balance, strength and quickness. A shifty back he has shown better than advertised hands in all of his post-season workouts, so scouts are feeling more comfortable with his all-around skill level. His average 40-times will likely cause him to fall into the early part of day two - but this could be the mid-round running back that explodes on the scene once he gets the ball.

Jonathan Wells (Ohio State) – Wells is a big back that runs hard and picked up his level of play as a senior. Earlier in his career he was marked as a kid with a lot of potential, but was a "soft" runner at times. As a senior he finished off his runs, dropped his head and gained extra yardage after contact and also did a very good job of getting in shape. He has dropped ten pounds since the Senior Bowl (231 lbs.) and averaged 4.51 on his 40-times at Ohio State's Pro Day.

Ricky Williams (Texas Tech) – Williams has terrific potential as a third-down back. He caught 92 passes this season and shows impressive strength for his size. His ability to break tackles, motion out to the slot and gain yards after the catch could make him a late day one selection.

Josh Scobey (Kansas State) – Scobey has very impressive straight-line speed, but runs upright and without much wiggle. He ran 4.37 at the Combine, but has only average hands out of the backfield. His size and 40-time may cause some team to over-draft this kid, but ideally he is more of a 5th round type prospect.

"Sleeper" - Brian Allen (Stanford) – Allen is an underrated all-around back with the ability to gain yardage between the tackles, while also showing soft hands as a receiver. He raised eyebrows at the Combine by running 4.45 and doing 19 reps of 225 lbs.

 


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